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|Logo used on aid delivered to European countries during the Marshall Plan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Needed: A Marshall Plan
governance in Nepal was a disaster zone even before the earthquake. ..... Slow delivery of services, lack of coordination, mismanagement, ad hoc decisions and corruption have been the hallmarks of our soft state. Despite the restoration of democracy and regular elections, accountability has somehow always fallen between the cracks. Leaders who traditionally thrived on patronage have felt no need for performance-based legitimacy. ...... How could we expect the Nepali state to become the epitome of efficient management and speedy delivery overnight, just because there was an earthquake? ....... It would have streamlined procedures to receive maximum assistance instead of creating hurdles, it would have expedited delivery of urgent medical and food supplies to remote areas instead of letting it pile up at the airport, it would have encouraged donations to pour in instead of creating obstacles and obfuscation. ...... what we saw were politicians and bureaucrats showing the same inertia and lethargy as they have during ‘normal’ times. They pushed paper, waited for rubber stamps and ‘clearance from higher-up authorities’ as if it was just another humdrum day in our banana republic. All right, we’ll say it:
the bureaucratic delays in the initial days after the quake cost lives. The earthquake killed people, red tape killed many of the survivors......... The Prime Minister toured Sindhupalchok by air 10 days after the earthquake, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been holed up in a secluded villa in Man Bhavan for the past week, and only briefly gate-crashed a relief distribution event organised by the Guru Dwara. The President, it must be said, shunned media attention and made low-key personal visits to ruins of Kathmandu’s historic heart. ..... And when the politicians and the government did act decisively, it was to spread even more hopelessness and confusion. Just like the famously absurd sound bite by a palace official after the royal massacre in 2001 about it having been caused by the “accidental discharge of an automatic weapon” this time too, officials were busy shooting themselves in the foot every time they opened their mouths. .......... The Central Bank issued a dreadful statement that all earthquake aid had to be channeled through the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (‘otherwise they will be seized’) that immediately halted most emergency cash donations from abroad. The PMO tried to clarify it was only for NGOs set up after 25 April for earthquake relief, but its interpretation sowed even more confusion. Then some wiseguy in government said we don’t need any more aid. Not to be outdone, another smartass told foreign rescue workers “we don’t need you anymore we can handle it ourselves”. The government is the subject of ridicule across the world, it is squandering the goodwill that Nepal and Nepalis command internationally – testament to which is the tremendous and prompt delivery of relief flights.......... The Army and Armed Police together have 120,000 personnel deployed in the 12 districts, and by all accounts have gone beyond the call of duty, despite their own family tragedies, in search, rescue and ferrying supplies. Civil society, individuals, overseas Nepalis and the private sector have stepped in to fill the gaps. ......... In the short-term there is still the need to get emergency food, medicine and shelter to the areas where they are most needed. In the medium term, we will have to turn our attention to semi-permanent housing as well help with seeds for the planting season as the rainy season approaches. This is of vital importance so subsistence farmers who have lost their granaries have something to eat in the coming year and will not have to depend on outside food aid. Then there is the colossal need for reconstruction of the 300,000 homes and 15,000 schools that have been destroyed. ........ This needs a Marshall Plan type movement with seamless coordination between the government, local bodies, the international community, the UN and the multilateral agencies. By now we have plenty of lessons learnt from Haiti to Haiyan about how to best manage the rehabilitation of vast populations. No two countries are alike, but there are red flags about where things went dreadfully wrong elsewhere, and why things worked brilliantly in places. ....... more than anything else, we in Nepal need to turn this tectonic shift into a paradigm shift in the way we govern ourselves, how we plan, move towards a renewable energy economy, be more self-sufficient, enforce urban planning, zoning and safe housing regulations, and decentralise decision-making. ....... Nepal has turned into a no-man’s land because of overseas out migration. Village after village devastated by the earthquake have only women, children and the elderly.